Al Gore, the former US vice-president, delivers an upbeat assessment of the global response to climate change today, saying he believes a "political tipping point" has been reached which will enable leaders to avert environmental catastrophe.
In his first newspaper interview since the US election, the Nobel peace prize winner tells the Guardian that Barack Obama's arrival in the White House, combined with a growing realisation of the problem among business leaders, means there is now enough political momentum to tackle the world's greatest environmental threat.
He believes a global climate deal will be agreed at the UN-brokered climate talks scheduled in Copenhagen for December.
"There is a very impressive consensus now emerging around the world that the solutions to the economic crisis are also the solutions to the climate crisis," he says. "I actually think we will get an agreement at Copenhagen."
While admitting there is a big challenge ahead, he says he is seeing signs of hope. "[Obama's election] is one of the main factors," he says. "But we also have a big ally in reality the planet is under assault. This collision with human civilisation ... is increasingly dire."
Gore, awarded an Oscar for his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, held private talks with Obama in December in which they reportedly discussed the "green" components of the $787bn US stimulus package signed into law on 17 February.
Gore says he has also detected a shift in the view of many business leaders. "They're seeing the writing on every wall they look at. They're seeing the complete disappearance of the polar ice caps right before their eyes in just a few years," he says. "They're seeing the new US administration. They're seeing Gordon Brown and David Cameron both advocating dramatic changes here in the UK."
Gore warns business leaders who did not yet "get it" that they should look to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market as a warning. "We now have several trillion dollars worth of sub-prime carbon assets whose value is based on the assumption that CO2 is free and there is nothing wrong with 70m tonnes of it entering into the atmosphere every 24 hours," he says. "That assumption is also in the process of collapsing and the remedy for it will include ... a change in business practices."
Responding to James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia theory, who said the European trading system for carbon was "disastrous", Gore says: "James Lovelock has forgotten more about science than I will ever learn. But in analysing political systems he is perhaps allowing his ... frustration ... to obscure some of the opportunities for change in the political system. There are tipping points in nature, but there are also tipping points in politics."
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017